Copyrighted material


by Adrian Reyes

on Mexico's election crisis

(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- Andres Lopez Obrador, Mexico's leftist presidential hopeful, is encouraging supporters to engage in peaceful acts of civil resistance and keep a close eye on the ballot boxes stored in 300 districts, reiterating that conservative Felipe Calderon stands to take over a presidency stripped of legitimacy if he continues to block a full recount.

Officials from the municipal government -- controlled by the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) -- estimate that the Sunday rally called by PRD candidate Lopez Obrador drew one million demonstrators.

The rally, the second Lopez Obrador has called since the contested July 2 elections, elicited strong criticism from the governing National Action Party (PAN), which has said the protests put unacceptable pressure on electoral authorities.

PAN has also objected to the PRD request to reopen all ballot boxes and compare the new counts to the official tally sheets, on the grounds that these measures were already taken on election day and that official tally records were reviewed three days after.

PAN spokesman Cesar Nava told IPS that his party would not bow to what amounts to political "blackmail." "It is not worth playing into their hands; we have no reason to trust Lopez Obrador's declaration of good faith," he said, especially now, since he has made it clear he would not recognize Calderon as president even if a recount confirms his victory.

According to the official tally released by the Federal Elections Institute (IFE), Calderon narrowly edged out Lopez Obrador by a 0.58 percent margin. The PRD officially challenged the elections, filing numerous complaints of alleged irregularities with Mexico's Federal Elections Tribunal.

PAN members "are not worried," because the election outcome is ultimately in the hands of the tribunal, and "the rest is just dirty tactics," added Nava. He is confident Calderon will stick to his "winner's agenda," which entails meetings with representatives from several sectors in preparation for December's transfer of power.

Nava also thinks it is unlikely the Electoral Tribunal Electoral will order a vote recount as requested by Lopez Obrador, and charged that the PRD candidate was trying to invalidate the presidential election. "The law is not negotiable; it cannot be changed according to the whims of one candidate," he added.

Speaking to IPS, PRD spokesman Gerardo Fernandez Norona denied that the party was set on annulling the election. "This is the line the opposition has taken to discredit our demands."

But, he added, "If the tribunal rejects our petition to reopen the count, it could trigger a major crisis. We are acting well within the law, and any candidate will find it difficult to take power without a fully legitimate foundation."

Political analyst Raymundo Riva Palacio, a columnist at the El Universal daily, predicted that a vote-by-vote, polling station-by-polling station recount, as demanded by the PRD, would favour Calderon.

If his victory is consequently confirmed, the PAN candidate earns a victory free of the uncertainty, constant complaints and submission of evidence of alleged irregularities that to date have tainted his win, added Riva Palacio, who warned against inaugurating a new president dogged by credibility issues.

The IFE, which has been the target of harsh criticism from the "For the Good of All" coalition that backed Lopez Obrador's bid for president, published media ads stating that on Jul. 5, during the count recorded in district tallies, 2,870 ballot boxes were unsealed.

In 95 percent of these, said the IFE, "the tallies of all parties and coalitions were adjusted." These 2,837 ballot boxes represent 2.2 percent of the total 130,477 set up on election day.

The IFE defended its vote count, stating that it fully complied with the law and occurred in the presence of representatives from all political parties involved. It also noted that the tallies mentioned in accusations of irregularities were scrutinized, and that it was now up to the Electoral Tribunal to handle challenges and, when justified, order vote recounts.

Horacio Duarte, the PRD representative with the IFE, does not agree with the Institute's position. During Sunday's demonstration he called for the resignation of Luis Carlos Ugalde, alleging that the IFE head has ties to Calderon.

Duarte may still officially submit this complaint to the Electoral Tribunal, as he feels the arbitrator of the electoral process acted with bias and ignored the opposition's petitions.

During Sunday's massive gathering in Zocalo, the country's main public square, Lopez Obrador called on supporters to form committees to set up camps outside each of the 300 electoral district offices.

This measure is designed to prevent the IFE from ordering the opening of ballot boxes without electoral tribunal authorization. This occurred last week, despite army protection of the boxes, said the candidate.

Furthermore, Lopez Obrador recommended that Calderon "think about himself, his family, those closest to him; all the water in the oceans isn't enough to wipe away the stain of a fraudulent election."

"I remind him, also, that Mexico -- our country and its people -- does not deserve an illegitimate president who lacks moral or political authority," he concluded.

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Albion Monitor   July 18, 2006   (

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